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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/16/09

The current war on drugs, a brief: with brief history, test results, and facts included

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Today we are going to be approaching drug control policies and the facts involved with this. As many of you know drugs and the effects of them are a large contributor to crime as a general whole in the United States today. It is our duty as law enforcement to prevent when possible, and enforce the law when prevention fails. To better approach, our duties we must be able to look for potential flaws in the system and work to change those to benefits instead. Many cases of public policy exist in the United States today that have been formed based on flawed generally accepted opinions or worse policy based in moralistic views that have not been reflected in the facts. One of these policies is the ban against drugs and drug use. Currently in the United States, there is a "war" being fought against drugs and according to President Reagan and his wife Nancy it was "just say no" time for drugs. Of course, medical, scientific, and sociological persons know this is not nearly as simple as these politicians wished it to be. However, the drug war did not start in the 1980's it started much earlier in this country, even though the very public war against drugs began in the 1980's. With the advent of new "designer" drugs came, new waves of crime, and Reagan began the war in force. Current politicians carry the mantle concerning drugs and the United States drug control policy high, many are proud of their stance and continue to hold that stance regardless of potential cost in lives and money spent.

As far back as 1914 and the Harrison Narcotic Act (Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, 1914) which outlawed cocaine usage the United States government has based its legislation regarding drugs on flawed moral reactions to something it could have been making a good tax revenue from. Cocaine was introduced to the United States in the form of "tonics," coughs syrups, and even as a flavored drink called "Coca Cola." Cocaine was one of the largest drugs of choice for many Europeans and upper class people all over the world for a very long time. It was actually touted as a non-dangerous beneficial treatment by many physicians and pharmacists during the mid 1800's to very early 1900's. Even after its illegalization because of the Harrison Narcotics Act, people from the higher end of society tended to use it and still to this day do. One drug that came from cocaine was crack, a derivative and watered down version of true cocaine. At the time crack cocaine first hit the streets in force in the early 1980's many saw the devastation resulting in the attempts by drug "cartels" grabbing their shares. Of course, if this drug were legal there would have been no reason for the crime waves in the first place, however thanks to the Harrison Narcotics Act, several other Laws passed over times this, and many other drugs were illegal. Another drug was amphetamines known in the modern world as Methamphetamines, or crystal, crystal meth etc. This drug was first formulated in the late 1800's and was used by medical, scientific personnel to help them "keep going" the army soon picked it up and eventually it "morphed" into the drug we now know as Crystal Meth. Another major issue for the legal side of the drug war was PCP, and Marijuana.

Marijuana is the most interesting drug of all; the plant that it grows on can be used for many things that we currently use petroleum-based products. One of the largest myths regarding marijuana is that it is a gateway drug. This has been shown to be false, "Marijuana does not cause people to use hard drugs. What the gateway theory presents as a causal explanation is a statistic association between common and uncommon drugs, an association that changes over time as different drugs increase and decrease in prevalence." (Morral, McCaffery, Paddock 2002) There are several other studies as well showing that Marijuana is actually less harmful than cigarettes in moderate portions. One of those studies shows the following information "There have been no reports of lung cancer related solely to marijuana, and in a large study presented to the American Thoracic Society in 2006," (Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse 1995) Another common misconception regarding marijuana is that it is extremely harmful to a persona health. According to "In 1995, based on thirty years of scientific research editors of the British medical journal Lancet concluded, "the smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to health." (Deglamorising cannabis 1995) Another portion is the medical benefits of marijuana, "Marijuana has been shown to be effective in reducing the nausea induced by cancer chemotherapy, stimulating appetite in AIDS patients, and reducing intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma." (Vinciguerra, Moore, Brennan 1988) and it is good for patients with neurological disorders. (Nerve Pain included) "There is also appreciable evidence that marijuana reduces muscle spasticity in patients with neurological disorders." (Baker, Pryce, Croxford 2000) Now according to the United States government each of these "myths" is being cited as fact, sadly people believe that our government and the politicians making public policy are never wrong. When it comes to medical usages the government says the following "no animal or human data support the safety or efficacy of smoked marijuana for general medical use." (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2009) When it comes to the harm (or lack thereof) being caused by marijuana the government states the following, "Marijuana has a high potential for abuse and can incur addiction. Frequent use of marijuana leads to tolerance to the psychoactive effects and smokers compensate by smoking more often or seeking higher potency marijuana." (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2009) This statement directly contradicts the actual medical facts associated with marijuana. There are several other common myths regarding marijuana and as important, as it is to provide all the facts the above mentioned will suffice for the time being. However, as you can see public policy is being swayed away from factually based evidence and utilizing old "myths" instead.

When it comes to crime, the federal government is very clear that they believe drug related crimes are wrong, as most law-abiding citizens will agree with. However, what is commonly not mentioned is that being on drugs does not necessarily cause crime so much as the drugs themselves being illegal. According to the United States government "Drug-related offenses and drug-using lifestyles are major contributors to the U.S. crime problem" (Drug-Related Crime, 2000) When we look at the facts regarding this one must agree a very large percentage of crime in the United States is drug related. Unfortunately, our political appointees tend to approach it from the wrong angle, "Government spending related to smoking and the abuse of alcohol and illegal drugs reached $468 billion in 2005, accounting for more than one-tenth of combined federal, state, and local expenditures for all purposes, according to a new study." (Eckholm, 2009) Currently in the United States according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations "In 1973, there were 328,670 arrests logged in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) for drug law violations. In 2007, that number rose to 1,841,182 arrests for drug law violations logged in the UCR. Also in 2006, there were a reported 597,447 arrests for all violent crimes and 1,610,088 arrests for all property crimes, out of a total 14,209,365 arrests for all offenses." (FBI Uniform Crime Reports 2008) These numbers account for almost 4% of the total population in the United States and over 25% of the crime committed in the United States. Whether we like it or not a "war" against drugs may not be the best solution to this problem. Especially considering that, crime rates skyrocketed following the enormous crackdowns on drugs and drug users, directly following the Reagan administration. Currently, in the United States, we spend more money "fighting" this war that has increased crime and addiction than on our schools, and health care, and social programs combined instead of looking to treat addiction and stop crime our politicians have increased both.

The potential long-term implications of the current Drug Enforcement policies are more far reaching than we currently believe. While it is impossible to foretell the future, one could reasonably assume that in the case of the current "drug" war we are failing miserably. The future will see major changes occurring over a longer length of time. We will see de-criminalization and eventually legalization with taxation. Though this may take several years to implement, it will happen. It is my recommendation that the individual precincts and states begin to take the facts regarding this into account and refuse to incarcerate simple drug offenders; treatment is a valid and far better option in many cases. Rehabilitation is possible and necessary in many cases for drug offenders. Currently this country has a glut of prisoners and a large part of them is directly related to drugs. To reduce crime even further and prevent reoccurrences of it rehabilitation must be approached within the system. It is necessary to approach this issue as professionals and not as moralists. We can all agree that our personal values system drives us. However, we can also see that when we disregard facts and approach controversial issues such as this with our moral hat on versus our logical hat we are in fact ensuring that we will never move forward and actually reduce crime. It should be the goal of the States and local law enforcement to reduce crime by attacking the real problems, while rehabilitating those who can be.

Rehabilitation is a controversial issue, and unfortunately, there is not enough hard data to move forward on a broad scale, it is necessary to create this data. I propose that we begin rigorous testing procedures within our current jail population, utilizing monitoring and Twelve Step programs at first. If we take a percentage of the minor, drug related offenders and instead of jailing them, place-monitoring devices on them there are a few good monitoring bracelets that offer the ability of the offender to work, and perform tasks while being under the guidance of their respective probation officers. One of those monitoring devices is the following "The SleepTime 24/7 Alcohol and Other Drugs of Abuse Monitor allows 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week alcohol and other drug abuse monitoring." (StreeTime Technologies, 2009) The second part of the program would include ensuring they are attending a twelve-step program or in some cases sending them to a dry out clinic. This can be done by revoking their licenses, issuing state ID's and driving them to the program meetings. Other changes may be relocation, job searching etc. all of these must be approached and an SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) introduced.

By using the above approach we stand to benefit from a decreased amount of repeat offenders, it would be necessary to follow up and track those that enter the program to see if there are any identifiable changes in behavior and actions. Obviously, this will require community input and assistance, however, in the end we could potentially benefit from a significant reduction in crime as well as raised productivity and long term affects associated with the families and circle of influence each offender wields. It is should be our goal to see a new standard approached concerning drug control and the current enforcement policies in place. Criminal Justice in meant to preserve justice, and enforce when necessary to do so effectively we must begin to approach some of these issues from alternative standpoints.

In conclusion, we have learned some of the history connected to the current "war on drugs" as well as facts connected to usage and crime rates as well. It was the goal of the author to present a balanced viewpoint and offer an alternative to current law enforcement approaches in regards to drug related crime. While there are laws in effect that regulate much of this is it is possible to approach this from a State or local level as well. It is the hope of the author that we approach reducing drug related crime from a perspective that offers treatment and rehabilitation. By understanding the causes of the crime, and treating that, we stand to reduce it far more with much wider reaching implications.

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Jesse Mathewson is currently a writer, stay at home father, full time student, and political campaign volunteer coordinator. His hobbies include writing, shooting, teaching, and history (religious and United States history.)His resume includes (more...)
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